College Dorm - Roommate Issues

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Continued: Keys to Living 'Happily Ever After' in the College Dorm

When There's a Problem

A big part of the college experience is learning effective confrontational skills and initiating communication when there are problems. Bradley says most students don't like to confront others. "Often they try to live with the problem or ignore it, but it can go too far and usually someone gets hurt," he says.

Common aggravations include sloppiness, dividing food, visitors, personal space, music tastes and quiet time. When problems arise, try to solve them as a room first, Bradley explains. "Don't beat around the bush or drop hints. Talk as a room, not belittling or ganging up on anyone. Be factual. Set or reiterate policies. But if problems persist, you may need to ask the RA to act as a liaison."

However, incompatibility does happen. When you believe it is best to switch rooms, go through the proper channels with the RA. Be honest, yet tactful, with your roommates as to why you are leaving.

"Ask what their plans are because others could be thinking the same thing, which could eliminate the problem and you won't have to move," Bradley says. "Give some advance notice. It's rude to announce at the last minute you're moving out. It leaves others with guilt, confusion and a feeling of failure."

Practical Advice

Whether it's your first roommate arrangement or your fifth, Bradley and Santee do have practical advice to make dorm life harmonious.

1) Practice common courtesy when it comes to visitation. Establish policies or schedules, setting aside nights for quiet and study time. "This is where having a calendar on the message board really comes in handy," Bradley emphasizes. "It minimizes surprising the roommate who comes home at midnight after a full day of classes and work wanting to get some sleep only to find a party going on. Planning ahead makes it possible for arranging other places to study or spend the night."

2) Keep a balance of rights and compromise. Be flexible, but not at the expense of your studies or health. Honor your roommates' rights to guests and socializing; after all, they are paying for the room, too.

3) Express issues and develop tactful, effective confrontation skills. Such skills will pay off in the future.

4) Whether you or your roommate has a car, set policies on borrowing the car or giving rides, taking into consideration gas, mechanical expenses and scheduling.

5) Set a policy about borrowing each other's clothes to avoid problems when clothing is borrowed without asking.

6) Try not to get caught in the middle of roommates' family issues. For example, a parent may call seeking "investigative" information about the roommate or the other parent. Avoid sharing information that could create tension, leading to further conflict. In most cases, it's best to refer the parent to a more appropriate person, such as a college staff member.

As for the state of confusion and bulging dorm room on moving day, avoid this by contacting your roommates ahead of time to see who is bringing what (furniture, electronic equipment, recreational items). Contact the college to determine the size of the room, what furnishings are provided and number of electrical outlets. Wait to bring seasonal items such as winter clothes and skis until holiday breaks to avoid overcrowding.

And remember, you aren't the only one who is homesick, disoriented or undergoing roommate conflict. There is help available, so seek it through your RA, housing coordinator or better yet, your roommates!

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See Also: Famous Roommates